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PLoS ONE’s 2010 Impact Factor

Deep Impact (film)

Deep Impact (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PLoS ONE received its 2010 journal impact factor today, 4.411, placing the open access journal in 12th spot among 85 Biology journals.

The open access journal, published by the Public Library of Science, has grown rapidly since its launch in December 2006. In 2010, it published nearly 7,000 articles and became the largest scientific journal in the world. Based on this trajectory, the publisher predicts 12,000 published articles by the end of 2011.

PLoS ONE is based on a scalable publishing model with an editorial board of 1,300 volunteer academics. As an online-only publication, the growth of the journal is nearly limitless — the journal is purposefully interdisciplinary in nature, bases criteria for inclusion primarily on “sound methodology,” not novelty, and pays for itself through individual article fees. At the 2011 SSP Annual Conference, PLoS ONE publisher, Peter Binfield, believes that we’ve entered the era of the “OA Mega Journal.” According to his predictions, by 2016, 50% of all STM articles will be published by 100 of these mega journals.

The metaphor to describe this new publishing model could go both ways: for the cynical, PLoS ONE is an alien Blob that is bent on devouring the publishing landscape; for its supporters, it represents a successful model to be emulated — and emulated it has been.  In the last two years, many subscription publishers have launched PLoS ONE-like journals (SAGE Open, BMJ Open, Biology Open, and Open Biology, to name a few) into the growing market, promising similar services — fast publication, a high likelihood of acceptance, and article-level metrics after publication — at competing prices.

Expect several more entrants this year.

At the recent SSP Conference, I met several publishers who were poised to launch their own open access journals after discovering that the majority of their rejected manuscripts were being published by PLoS ONE. “Why invest so much into editorial and peer-review if all of that work was benefiting a competitor?” they reasoned.

Yesterday, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust announced plans to launch their own open access journal by summer 2012.

Does this change of heart — from a stalwart adherence to a model of scientific publishing that values selection, to a model that values dissemination — indicate that the venerable establishment of scientific publishing is making a fast turnabout? Or, is there more information in the Journal Citation Report data that reveals a citation bubble that is about to collapse and, along with it, the hopes of many authors?

As I argued last year around this time, a respectable impact factor for PLoS ONE is both a blessing and a curse. While the PLoS establishment may be dismissive of impact factors — and any indicator that attempts to derive article-level value from journal-level metrics — most authors consider a journal’s impact factor seriously when deciding where to publish. And open access supporters are no different from the status quo, according a recent survey. The impact factor is still a major component of individual, departmental, and organizational evaluation around the world; and in places like China, authors are compensated financially for their success in publishing in high-impact journals.

Given the choice of submitting to a highly-selective, rigorously-reviewed, and a meticulously copy-edited specialist journal with a commensurate impact factor, the benefits of PLoS ONE are quite apparent, if not as a first-choice for initial submission, then as a second alternative when one’s manuscript is rejected.

In this light, the massive growth in publication output from PLoS ONE may be interpreted not as a sign of success, but as a market that has been established to profit on failure.

Now, before you jump to the comment section and take me to task for this dramatically critical statement of an immensely successful journal, let’s consider the data in more detail.

As described in detail in a prior post, the most recent 2010 journal impact factor reflects the collective success of articles published by early adopters in 2008 and 2009 — years in which there was no PLoS ONE impact factor.

PLoS ONE Publications (Binfield, SSP 2011)

If last year’s announcement of an impact factor changed the behavior of submitting authors — and the spike in article publications beginning in the last quarter of 2010 suggests this is the case (see slide 13 of Binfield’s talk) — we should start seeing the manifestation of this behavioral shift in the 2011 Journal Citation Reports, which will be published in June 2012.

If you cannot wait that long, a foreshadowing of this prediction may be found in this year’s JCR data.

The Journal Immediacy Index (JII) represents the average number of citations received by articles published in the most current year — in other words, citations made in 2010 to articles published in 2010. While most articles take much longer to accrue citations, early citations are often a reliable indicator of long-term citation success, especially in the biomedical sciences. And for large journals that publish thousands of articles, like PLoS ONE, the JII should be pretty stable. In 2010, the PLoS ONE immediacy index was 0.515, representing a drop of about 12% from 2009 (0.582).

If the Journal Immediacy Index for PLoS ONE is any indication of its future impact factor, then we should expect the next two reports to show significant declines in the citation impact of this journal as the articles published by late adopters begin to displace those from the early adopters. Unlike the US housing market bubble that popped within a matter of weeks, the PLoS ONE citation bubble will slowly deflate over a period of two years or more.

For specialized journals, who have established themselves on providing rigorous review and meticulous layout and editing, this deflation may come too late. The OA Mega Journal has arrived and is here to stay.

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About Phil Davis

I am an independent researcher and publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of readership and citation data. I am a former postdoctoral researcher in science communication and former science librarian. http://phil-davis.org/

Discussion

45 thoughts on “PLoS ONE’s 2010 Impact Factor

  1. Earlier today Heather Morrisson posted a comment on liblicense citing this article where complaints about the increasing cost of peer review were voiced: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=414106. I replied, in part:

    The fact is that open access is no answer at all to the cost of peer review. Indeed, to the extent that librarians encourage the launching of more OA journals resulting in ever more articles being produced, the cost of peer review will rise even further.

    PLoS One seems to be a major case in point. Even granting that the review is “light,” the huge number of articles published still carries a substantial cost in peer reviewing. I have also wondered about the incentives that drive OA publishers like Hindawi. Clearly, as submissions increase, on the OA model the best way to cover increasing costs for processing submissions is to increase the rate of acceptance, which brings in more money in fees to cover the costs. Even after the enormous increase in article production we’ve witnessed throughout the whole “serials crisis” period, it appears that the incentives in place now will drive an even greater expansion in the future, thus adding further to the problem of separating the wheat from the chaff.

    Posted by Sandy Thatcher | Jun 28, 2011, 3:26 pm
  2. “a market that has been established to profit on failure.” – would this not also describe the low/no-impact journals that round out the stables of most “traditional” publishers?

    Posted by Andy Farke | Jun 28, 2011, 6:31 pm
    • Sort of. It really depends on the journal. There are indeed, bottom-feeding journals as you suggest. But there are also many journals that cover niche fields that offer high quality papers that are in a field so small or obscure that it can’t perform well in terms of drawing outside citations to improve the impact factor.

      I’m sure we could both name some journals that fit the mold you’re describing but one can’t put all low/no impact journals into that one bucket.

      Posted by David Crotty | Jun 28, 2011, 9:02 pm
  3. Phil – regarding your comment about the Journal Immediacy Index, I think you may have made a false assumption. You can only directly compare one year with another if you are talking about a journal which is growing at the same rate throughout both years (or preferably remaining flat through the period).

    For example, if a journal publishes a higher proportion of its papers in the final quarter of the year (when you would reasonably expect no same-year citations to have a chance to occur) then, assuming the quality of the content remains constant, it would automatically have a lower Immediacy Index than the prior year.

    For PLoS ONE – in Q4 of 2009 the journal published approx 29% of the volume for the whole of that year (1,262 articles out of 4,404). However, in Q4 of 2010, the journal published approx 33% of the total annual output for the year (2,205 articles out of 6,784). The difference is an increase of approx 14% (from 29% to 33%).

    Posted by Peter Binfield | Jun 28, 2011, 7:37 pm
    • Yes, you may be right! I’m still betting on a deflation of your impact factor for next year however. If I’m wrong, I owe you a beer :-)

      Posted by Phil Davis | Jun 28, 2011, 9:16 pm
      • I think it’s very unlikely that the PLoS ONE impact factor will inflate or deflate in the near future. Simply, the denominator is too large, so it acts as a buffer that resists intense changes. I have been following ISI citations to PLoS ONE for a while, and it seems there is constant ratio of 3.6 ISI WoS citations per article. How did it become 4.4? I have always been amazed that the IF never matches WoS citations; I guess they use some additional non WoS-listed journals, so the citations are always higher than WoS but lower than WoK

        Posted by Ramy Karam Aziz (@azizrk) | Aug 26, 2011, 5:53 pm
  4. Open Access certainly has its merits, but it is not a model that should be emulated by all publishers. I’m the journal manager for The Canadian Field-Naturalist, which is a non-profit journal that has been publishing research related to Canadian wildlife since 1879. Our journal is rare in that many of our authors are amateur researchers – something of which we are proud.

    Over the past year we have made many changes to our journal, and we considered during our overhaul whether or not to go open access. We researched open access options and decided against it. Open Access requires payment from authors. Because amateur authors do not have grants to cover author charges, they’d have to pay out of their own pockets. Because many of our subscribers want (in fact insist upon) print subscriptions, we cannot go exclusively online and our costs are therefore considerable. If we went Open Access we’d either price amateur authors out of the market (which would be a huge disservice to science), or else price professional authors out of the market if we waived amateurs’ charges and hiked up professional authors’ charges to compensate.

    Open Access has merits, but it is not the miracle publishing model some make it out to be. For our journal it would not be a good model.

    Posted by Jay Fitzsimmons | Jun 28, 2011, 10:31 pm
    • Open Access requires payment from authors. Because amateur authors do not have grants to cover author charges, they’d have to pay out of their own pockets.

      Yet scholars in the social sciences and humanities are able to publish without author charges, even online (e.g. Sexual Offender Treatment, to pick a journal at random). It’s true that most of these are associated with a society or organization, but the difference in business models seems to me to be extreme.

      Posted by Doctor Science | Jul 21, 2011, 12:12 pm
  5. Thanks for an interesting article, and it supports a discussion I had with a journal editor this time last year – he was trying to get me to lay a bet that PLoS ONE was a bubble where the “second choice” publications that you mention would eventually lead to its demise. I disagreed then, and still do to a certain extent (I’m also too mean to lay out good money on predictions!).

    PLoS ONE started with a fantastic brand and a clever model (along with some nice bells-and-whistles), and it provides a great “one-stop-shop” for researchers (something other large publishers have the potential to offer across their journals but somehow miss out on). However whether it will replace the high-impact, high-quality journals, I’m not so sure: will the pre-selected quality assurance and relevance selection that they offer retain their place in the eyes (and hearts) of researchers? (i.e. their role to cut through information overload and identify “what the good stuff is”).

    Will PLoS ONE replace the second-tier journals? More possibly – and the “superjournal” may well be a better model for articles not quite good enough for the top tier (to trim the cost of endless reviews etc.).

    There is, however, another factor to take into account – the crowd. It is quite possible that PLoS ONE will become self-fulfilling: the higher the IF, the more cites/submits = the higher the IF = the more success for PLoS ONE = the worse for other journals.

    But I’m still not willing to bet either way!

    Posted by pippa smart | Jun 29, 2011, 4:00 am
    • Publications in PLoS ONE are not necessarily NOT “what the good stuff is” – I have cited articles from PLoS ONE in my publications because they were relevant to my field and I didn’t care much about the housing journal identity. That’s what’s matter – that your published work contribute to the work of others.
      And as you said so yourself:
      “the higher the IF, the more cites/submits = the higher the IF = the more success for PLoS ONE = the worse for other journals”

      Posted by Chen Guttman | Apr 5, 2012, 1:34 am
  6. In reading this post and the comments, it struck me that an author of a journal article getting published in PLoS ONE is sounding more and more like the author of a book getting her book into Amazon. Talk about a one-stop-shop that’s relatively easy to get into! Even if the book author can’t find a publisher (or doesn’t want to), she can self-publish (author-pays) and her book is where more people buy more books than anyplace else. (I see that as a good thing, btw, and I suspect SK’s head chef and chief mystery author would agree.) The critical difference: books aren’t available in just one place, whereas the dynamic in journal publishing is binary: if your article doesn’t get into the top-tier specialized journal ( = Farrar, Straus didn’t buy my novel), you’ve got a good chance of getting it into PLoS ONE (assuming it passes their apparently somewhat relaxed peer review, i.e. novelty isn’t so much a consideration). But if your novel _is_ published by Farrar, Straus, it’s still in Amazon (plus a bunch of other places). Does anybody see journal publishing moving toward this multiple-outlet model, where there are mega journals where you can find pretty much everything, but some things have the imprimatur, and the refinement, and the marketing, offered by the higher-tier publisher? I realize that’s a radical wrench to the current model. But it strikes me that we might be moving in that direction. Just a thought from a mostly book-side guy.

    Posted by Bill Kasdorf | Jun 29, 2011, 10:34 am
  7. The way I see it, PLoS ONE is not about replacing a specific journal, it’s about replacing the whole scholarly publishing industry. As such, article quality/impact will naturally vary in the same way that article quality currently varies across the full spectrum of scholarly journals today. The PLoS ONE impact factor will probably asymptote to the industry profile, not specific journals.

    Posted by Richard Wynne | Jun 29, 2011, 1:00 pm
  8. PLoS ONE has opened a new area in publishing industry as well as scientific community. It will save huge amounts of brain mind to pursuing real science rather than spending so much efforts just to publish data in a top-tier journal wothout increasing anymore significance of the publication. I have always submitted manuscripts to PLoS ONE without wasting time in top-tier journals.

    PLoS ONE is also well distributed to audience than any specialized journals.

    Posted by JX | Jun 29, 2011, 8:10 pm
  9. “bases criteria for inclusion primarily on “sound methodology,” not novelty, and pays for itself through individual article fees”.

    It should indicated that PLOS ONE has published much more novelty than Nature, Cell and Science each year. The novelty means primary findings. Nature, Cell and Science have suppressed a lot of primary findings.

    Posted by JX | Jul 14, 2011, 4:15 pm
  10. Hasn’t Applied Physics Letters been doing a review process similar to this for a few decades now? They don’t handle the volume of PLoS ONE, only 4459 articles in 2010 according to Journal Citation Reports, but peer review, rapid dissemination, lack of subjective criteria seem to be in place. Am I missing something?

    Posted by Robin Sinn | Jul 15, 2011, 3:57 pm
  11. We’ve published in PLos ONE and the review process was as rigorous as in well-known neuroscience journals we had published in previously. I was impressed.

    Posted by koi | Jul 20, 2011, 10:44 am
  12. The problem with ‘high-end’ journals like Nature and Science is that they are not journals, but magazines. They are only interested in ‘catchy-science’ and in many cases the actual science is very poor and would not survive peer-review in ‘lesser’ journals. They simply publish some articles because it sounds good and will sell magazines. Then later, the retractions and counter articles are published. for which scientific journal would be embarrassed, but these magazines are clearly not (they already sold their quota of the original). How Nature and Science ever got the reputation they did, it has long been lost with their model of science for profit, rather than dissemination of quality work. It is my hope that researchers will begin to realize what these magazines are, and instead publish in reputable journals and also avoid citing articles published in Nature and Science magazines.

    Posted by Major John | Jul 28, 2011, 12:22 pm
    • There is some truth to this. I’ve published six nature papers, one science paper, and five Cell papers, so I’m not just an angry reject. Of course Cell/Science/Nature publish some fantastic science, but sometimes they do seem to be looking more for sexy than solid. Over the years my lab, (and many others), have found, often after a year of work or more, that the stuff in some of these papers is just flat completely and utterly wrong.

      Steve P.

      Posted by steve p | Apr 22, 2012, 10:33 am
  13. I take exception to the comments that the reviews at Plosone are light and will like to hear from other authors. My experience 3 papers published in PlosOne) has been of rigorous review. The only thing that differentiates Plosone is that the papers are not rejected based on novelty ( a term I have not understood, since majority of papers in other journals are reviewed by two reviewers)

    Posted by plosone fan | Aug 9, 2011, 3:18 pm
    • Completely agree with you. Never understood novelty!!! have seen a lot of cases where one reviewer accepts it and the other reviewer has issues with novelty and the editor sides with the other reviewer.

      Posted by anotherfan | Aug 11, 2011, 12:41 am
    • I agree fully.

      I have often gotten very brief reviews from “higher quality journals” which are generally positive – only to be rejected due to “low priority score”.

      The reviews I have received are often highly detailed and critical of the methodology requiring additional work – which strengthens the manuscript.

      More importantly – I agree with a number of the comments above. You could burn every issue of Nature and Science for an entire year and essentially little would be lost to the scientific community. As with other journals, predicting which science will stand the test of time and actually produce improvements in health sciences is impossible. Most papers in these top-notch journals – though cited – are often disproven quickly.

      Indeed, publishing in these journals is more a premise of being a “prominant” scientist rather than novel and impactful work.

      Critics of PLoS ONE I feel are likely realizing that being friends with editors or traveling the conference circuit will no longer gain you advantage.

      Publish quickly, plant your flag in the ground and, most importantly, live and die by the long-term success/citations of your science!

      Posted by PLoS ONE champion | Mar 25, 2012, 2:23 pm
  14. The claim that the peer-review process for PLoS ONE is somehow less stringent than for ‘traditional’ journals is claimed, taken as a given, but not backed up by any evidence. Mr. Davis gets a ‘Resubmit with Major Revision’ on this one.

    I would argue that PLoS ONE’s review process is well in line with their well-deserved impact factor. To be sure, the online, open-source format allows for publication of a greater number of articles. But this simply means that research worthy of publication, that should enter the public realm, but may otherwise not make the cut under fierce competition for limited space in specialized journals gets published. If our concern is the advancement of science, this is a good thing.

    Authors working their way down the impact factor scale is simply a case of aiming as high as one can. If The Lancet accepts my paper after Nature has rejected it, it is not because The Lancet somehow fudges peer review for commercial gain. If PLoS ONE takes it after The Lancet has rejected it, the same applies. And so on…

    Disclaimer: I have both published in and served as a peer-reviewer for PLoS ONE

    Posted by Emre | Dec 28, 2011, 8:31 am
    • My counter claim would be that it is quite possible to write a paper that is methodologically sound and at the same time totally uninteresting and unimportant and makes no significant contribution to the literature whatsoever.

      Posted by Sandy Thatcher | Dec 28, 2011, 10:11 am
    • Completely agree! Simply, PLoS One reaches out to a much larger group of scientists and is becoming increasingly attractive to interdisciplinary scientists. The approach that Nature and Science takes is too narrow minded, depening on non-academics to make editorial decisions and know what is “interesting” for the public. PLoS One is now my first choice submission, especially with its short turnaround time for reviews.

      Posted by RF | Dec 29, 2011, 9:01 pm
  15. I have published a few (both last- and middle-) author papers in PLoS One and was quite impressed with the level and professionalism of peer-review. The first paper we published there in 2009 has been cited at the rate of 10 references / year, which I found to be a fair rate for a pretty small field. I also fail to understand the exact meaning of “lack of general significance” argument that is often used by the editors refusing to send a paper for peer review. Often when we published such a paper in a specialized (and, low impact factor) journal it was collecting more citations than another Nature or Science paper. I mean, “lack of general interest” and “publishing in a low impact journal” does not indicate sloppy or uninteresting science.

    Posted by AS | Jan 19, 2012, 12:51 pm
  16. I just submitted a modeling paper to PLOS ONE, not because the paper is not of scientific importance, but because, it has a fast review process. When I get back the reviwer’s comments, I was quite shocked to see there is about 10 pages of comments and our response to the reviewers is about 10,000 words (33 pages), which is longer than the paper itself. This example suggests that the PLOS ONE has really great and rigorous reviewing process. Now the revised paper went to review again and it has been two weeks since we submitted. I do not understand why many ppl says it is light review. It is actually much more rigorous than other journal I have published.
    This could be case by case because the area we are working on is a really hot area.

    Posted by John | Mar 8, 2012, 3:49 pm
  17. Time is money! Plos One reviewers are more scientifically rigorous than reviewers at other ‘print’ journals. And where did you get the idea that other journals don’t also charge authors to publish?

    I sent an article to one of the ‘Cell’ journals, but the editor would not send it out for review. It was rejected for not being of sufficient interest to a broader audience. This was in spite of the fact that this ‘Cell’ journal had just published multiple articles that directly contradicted one another in the very same issue, and on a topic that my article addressed.

    I reformatted text and figures (which took time) so I could send it to another ‘print’ journal. It was sent out for review, both reviewers wrote cursory (one paragraph) reviews and both deemed it worthy of publishing (scientifically sound and interesting) without any changes (major or minor). But the editor overruled his own reviewers and the article was again rejected for not being of sufficient interest to a broader audience.

    So I sent it to Plos One. I received extensive (multi-page) reviews from both Plos One reviewers; one reviewer suggested a few more experiments. We did the experiments, sent it back to Plos One for re-review and it was accepted and published after paying the $1,350 fee.

    Had the article been accepted by the ‘Cell’ or other ‘print’ journal it would have cost me more than $2,000 to pay for the cost of publishing the color figures.

    I’ve published in both Cell and Plos One, but will never send another article to any ‘print’ journal. I am fed up with non-scientists or failed scientists (also known as editors) wasting my precious time.

    Posted by caitlin | Mar 10, 2012, 1:24 am
    • There are two major roles for journals — signalling quality and signalling relevance/interest. It sounds like your paper made the quality cut, but not the relevance/interest cut at Cell. That’s why there are journals like PLoS ONE, which may signal a level of quality but don’t attend much to signalling relevance/interest. The audience of PLoS ONE is diffuse and unclear, and its business is driven by publication events, not by reading events. As a journal, it looks like it’s on its way to a very high profit margin, as well.

      Posted by Kent Anderson | Mar 10, 2012, 8:23 am
      • I am aware of the ‘quality’ vs. ‘interest’ decision that journal editors must make, but think you missed the point.

        The editor at the ‘Cell’ journal had already indicated that the scientific topic had ‘sufficient interest to a broader audience’ by publishing multiple, contradictory articles on the same topic. The conflicting conclusions in those articles published in the “Cell’ journal cannot all be right, and many are almost certainly wrong. ‘Cell’ journals like publishing controversial articles because they result in inflated impact factors when the rest of us must cite those articles that turned out to be wrong (at best) and sometimes fraudulent. Is that their business model?

        The editor at the other ‘print’ journal had already indicated that the scientific topic had ‘sufficient interest to a broader audience’ by sending it out for review. It was only after the article came back with two positives reviews (on both scientific quality and interest to a broader audience) that the editor changed his mind and decided the article lacked ‘sufficient interest to a broader audience’. That is simply the editors catch all phrase when they don’t want to publish the article because the author does not have a high enough profile (i.e. is not a member of the journals editorial board).

        The process of reformatting and waiting for reviews only to be rejected again by a failed scientist editor of a ‘high impact’ print journal wasted months of my time, which is worth a whole lot more than $1,350. If the ‘high profit margin’ business model of Plos One results in some ‘professional’ editors of print journals losing their jobs – so be it. They have enjoyed far too much power for far too long over what is (and what is not) published.

        Posted by caitlin | Mar 10, 2012, 10:41 pm
        • So “failed scientist editor” who rejected your paper is a flake, but the “failed scientist editors” who published your papers are awesome?

          I’ve argued on this blog before that author-pays OA journals and traditional journals aren’t in the same business, which is why there’s been no zero-sum game. You’re proving my point. Your paper was rejected from a traditional journal, but published by an author-pays OA journal. Probably as it should be. They aren’t in the same business.

          Posted by Kent Anderson | Mar 11, 2012, 11:59 am
          • I know the identity of the editors at the journals described. The two employed at print journals (that rejected the paper) gave up their experimental research programs (if they ever had one) long ago; the one at Plos One (that accepted the paper) is a full time academic research scientist and director of his institute. I’ll let you decide which ones you consider to be the failed scientists.

            Posted by caitlin | Mar 14, 2012, 4:41 am
            • By your logic, a newspaper editor is a failed journalist, a teacher is a failed learner. Becoming an editor of a scientific journal doesn’t mean you’re a failed scientist, it merely means you’ve taken a different road as a scientist. Perhaps these people feel their contribution is amplified from the vantage point of editorship.

              Posted by Kent Anderson | Mar 14, 2012, 6:41 am
              • Kent, you are replying to the inflammatory slams on the editors, but more pertinent is where you say “author-pays OA journals and traditional journals aren’t in the same business” in spite of caitlin stating it was author-pays for the traditional journals.

                The only difference is that PLos ONE does the same thing for less, and considering how much a journal subscription costs and how they take the copyright to turn that into even more money, PLos ONE is doing it for far far less.

                You also missed the point that the subject was obviously of interest to Cell since they were publishing on it already, and that in the case of the 2nd journal, it was interesting enough then not interesting enough depending on what? The phase of the moon? The particular editor?

                As a non-scientist, I found your statement that one of the two major roles for a journal is “signalling relevance/interest” to be strange. It is the cart driving the horse. Also, it gives too much power to a few people, people who arguably shouldn’t be making such decisions (whoever funded the research already decided it was worthwhile).

                Posted by Phil S. | Aug 24, 2012, 2:35 pm
                • PLoS ONE does not do the same thing for less. It does not cultivate specific audiences. It does not evaluate quality beyond “methodologically sound” or novelty or importance. It seems that the per-article accesses for PLoS ONE are falling year after year because of the limited functions PLoS ONE delivers for authors. As for copyright, you need to understand that copyright is useless to authors of scientific papers — what they have before publication is non-rival and non-excludable information (if I make the same discovery before publication, and I get my finding published first, I win — you can’t exclude me from that and you won’t be able to trump that). Publication makes the information rival and excludable. After that, copyright has no value to scientific authors, but it does allow publishers to protect the works through statutory methods, while unregistered copyright does not. So, PLoS ONE is not providing copyright registration and protection services to authors, either.

                  Cultivating an audience is a major role for journals. Why would a pediatrician read PLoS ONE rather than PEDIATRICS? One signals through its brand and editorial focus that the content will be relevant and interesting to pediatricians. PLoS ONE does not do this.

                  And these “people” at the head of most journals are scientists, physicians, or academics. They are qualified to make these decisions.

                  Funders make bets on hypotheses and research plans. Some prove interesting, many prove uninteresting or unworkable. The funders don’t decide whether it was a good study. They only decide to fund it. Experts need to decide whether the results are worth a hoot, and that’s what journal reviewers and editors do. And they need to make sure it reaches the right audience.

                  Posted by Kent Anderson | Aug 24, 2012, 6:46 pm
    • A recent study showed that something like 15% of Ph.D. recipients are in a tenured position within 6 years of receiving their degree. I would suggest that if you publicly refer to 85% of the postdocs and students at your institution as “failures”, you may not end up the most popular person on campus. An unwillingness to accept that others follow different career paths may result in people regarding you as out of touch, a poor mentor or even an ivory tower snob. Given the relatively high demands and low rewards offered by your chosen career path, many would likely dispute your extremely limited definition of success.

      It should also be noted that many non-print journals, such as most of those published by PLoS employ “failures” as professional editors, and in my experience, editors who are working scientists are no less selective than their full time editorial counterparts.

      Posted by David Crotty | Mar 11, 2012, 11:27 am
      • I see I’ve clearly touched a raw nerve with you ‘professional’ editors.

        Posted by caitlin | Mar 14, 2012, 4:43 am
  18. The random decision of: “great science, but not novelty enough” or “great science, but not broad enough” is just mind boggling. Especially when you can actually see other papers being published in the same journals that are very similar in novelty/broad status. Very difficult not to assume luck, personal acquaintances, institution is not playing a role. Plus, one has to rewrite all the papers in a specific format, spend an immense amount of time doing it. Instead of doing science. I will never again loose my time over this. Long live to Plos ONE!

    Posted by luís | May 17, 2012, 12:32 pm
  19. In my field, journals like Nature and Science have published papers from a small select group of authors, who have an incestuous author/reviewer relationship. Over time, most of those papers have been discredited but only after considerable struggle to publish….and not by publishing in these journals. The editors invariably send papers that go counter to the results by this select group of star authors, who have a vested interest in rejecting them….assuming they go out for review in the first place. Therefore now I find no incentive to submit papers on this topic to Nature or Science…although I have published paper on other topics there.
    I was on sidelines regarding PLos ONE but having seen that traditional journals are becoming ‘Of the mediocre, by the mediocre, and for mediocre’, I think PLoS One is needed to revamp publication integrity. As more quality papers appear in PLoS, the best scientists will take back the role of guardians of good research once again, and also Forcing editors in other journals to realize they have no incentive to play favorites.

    Kakas

    Posted by Kakas | May 18, 2012, 12:16 am

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The mission of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is "[t]o advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking." SSP established The Scholarly Kitchen blog in February 2008 to keep SSP members and interested parties aware of new developments in publishing.
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The Scholarly Kitchen is a moderated and independent blog. Opinions on The Scholarly Kitchen are those of the authors. They are not necessarily those held by the Society for Scholarly Publishing nor by their respective employers.
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